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Vietnam/Cambodia itinerary

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Jul 12th, 2017, 01:39 PM
  #1
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Vietnam/Cambodia itinerary

We are a couple in our early 50's. Not been to Asia before, but used to organising our own holidays rather than having a package. We enjoy beautiful scenery and walks (not difficult hikes). We are not backpackers, but don't want to stay in luxurious hotels, just places that are comfortable, clean, and welcoming.
We have flights booked arriving HCMC 16 Feb, flying out of HCMC 2 March. I'm wanting to get our internal transfers booked now, and am undecided whether to go to Siem Reap for a few nights or just concentrate on Vietnam.
If we just do Vietnam, am thinking of Hanoi, Halong Bay 2 night cruise, Hoi An, then 2 nights in HCMC at the end before flight back to UK.
If we add Siem Reap, we wouldn't do Hanoi and the cruise.
I don't want to spend a large proportion of our vacation in airport lounges, and wondered if anyone has any thoughts?
I realise we are in Vietnam for Tet too, which sounds like it has its good and bad points!
Thanks in advance.
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Jul 12th, 2017, 04:52 PM
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You have a tremoundous number of options for your trip. Choosing the right one really depends upon what sort of thing you want to see and do.

As I see it you have two basic choices:

1. Combine south of Vietnam and Cambodia.

The weather will be great at that time of year. Not too hot and plenty of sunshine. I would start with a few nights in Saigon, exploring this rapidly changing city. 3-4 night wil be enough to get over the jet lag, see most of the sights, check out the wonderful food.

We always stay at Ms Yangs Homestay a great location in D3, wonderful host who have become friends over the years ( just tell them "Bun Mam Man" sent you around £20 pn

From Saigon you could get buses into the Mekong Delta, explore a few of the towns, maybe Ben Tre, Tra Vinh and Cantho ( for the Cai Rang floating market).

From there head to Chau Doc towards the Cambodian border. Some amazing scenery and the deltas only Mountain, a submerged forest - a huge amount to see. Lots of photos of our time in the delta and elsewhere in the country on our blog https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/ in Chau Doc we stayed at Murray Guesthouse which was excellent.

It is easy to get to Phnom Penh by fast boat. PP is worth a few days, again, lots to see some of which is on our blog - just click to Cambodia on the destination tab.

You could fly or bus to Siem Reap for Angkor Way. It is a stunning sight but be aware that in recent years it Has become overrun and extremely crowded, mostly with Chinese tour groups which detracts from the experience considerably.

I would say you need two full days to see the main temples, you could spend considerably longer if you really like temples!

Flights back to Saigon are frequent and Realtively cheap.

2. Vietnam only

You could start in Saigon and work north. Either get the overnight train (an experience!) to Hue for Hoi An or fly to Da Nang and get a taxi from there. If you have the time I would strongly recommend a couple of nights in Hue. The Imperial Citadel ( now open at night) is worth a visit as are the imperial Tombs spread throughout the countryside. Easy to DIY or tours can be arranged through your accomodation.

If you really want to do Halong, fine but it is a long tedious drive there and back. Alternatives, might include Ninh Binh or perhaps Phnong Nha Ke Be Caves - between Hue and Hanoi - we spend a few days there last month and thought their were incredible! You can get there by train to Dong Hoi.

Finally, re TET. It is not as big a deal as it used to be. The country doesn't close down for a month any more, it more slows down for the days either side of the Tet holiday. Transport will get booked way in advance so you are wise to be arranging this now.
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Jul 12th, 2017, 11:20 PM
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A couple of weeks will zip by, so I reckon fill your time between Saigon and the Centre of the country. Three short internal flights and a scenic daytime train ride.

- Saigon - 3 nights.

- Fly to Dalat - 3 nights...
http://wikitravel.org/en/Dalat

- Fly to Hue - 3 nights...
http://wikitravel.org/en/Hue

- Train to Da Nang. Very scenic trip takes 3-4 hours.
- Taxi from Da Nang train station to Hoi An, about 50 minutes.

- Hoi An - 4 nights...
http://wikitravel.org/en/Hoi_An

- Fly back to Saigon from Da Nang for your last night or 2.

Note that it's very important that you spend your final night in the city where your exit flight is from.

Also note that getting from and to Saigon Airport can be gridlock on the road, so allow plenty of time.

Only Use Mai Linh [green] and Vinasun [white] taxis, they use their meter. other taxis may use their meter but it'll wizz round.
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Jul 12th, 2017, 11:23 PM
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Further to my post above, if you're taking advantage of the Vietnam 15 day visa exemption, note that your arrival and departure dates both count against the 15.
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Jul 14th, 2017, 11:46 PM
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Thank you both for your very helpful advice. We have decided to take out Hanoi all together this trip and concentrate on central/south given we've only got two week. We will just have to return to do the north! We are now considering HCMC for 2 nights, Can Tho for 2 nights, Hue for 3 nights, Hoi An for 4 nights, then back to HCMC for 2 nights before flying home. If you have any suggestions or advice to this new itinerary I'd appreciate it. Thank you.
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Jul 14th, 2017, 11:48 PM
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Thank you LancasterLad for the suggestion of the train from Hue to Da Nang, this looks a great option and one we are definitely thinking of doing!
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Jul 15th, 2017, 02:19 AM
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Crellston recommended this place to me in Hoi An...

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_..._Province.html

...so we stayed there too, and now I'm recommending it to you.

Crellston's recommendation in Saigon looks good, he normally admits and describes any bad choices he's made.

You have to book seats on the trains in advance, a day in advance should be plenty, and you'll be allocated seats. On the Hue to Da Nang train you need to be on the left hand side.
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Jul 17th, 2017, 12:57 PM
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Thanks , I'll take a look at that hoteland the place Crellston mentioned in Saigon.

Thanks for the tip about trains, do you know if you're able to specify which seats you want or are they just randomly allocated?
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Jul 17th, 2017, 04:44 PM
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Looks like a nice relaxed trip.

When booking trains, we have always booked seats for that part of the route and it has usually been possible. Not sure re online booking, but I doubt it. In these days of air con carriages with non opening windows, it is always better to take photos from the vestibules at the end of the carriages where the windows open.

It takes around 3 hours to get from Can Tho by bus, a little less by taxi. Make sure to visit Cai Rang at dawn. A boat is cheap and easily arranged. Leave at 5.30 am you will be done by 8.30. Can Tho is just a city, ok , but no great shakes. You may wish to consider, rather than staying in town, doing a Homestay in the countryside. That way you will be able to explore the smaller canals an experience the rural life of the delta.
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Jul 17th, 2017, 10:05 PM
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We booked the train in person at Da Nang train station a couple of days in advance. The ticket office staff can see that you are a tourist and that you want a seat with a view. Hue train station is only a short taxi ride from the centre.

I'd seen a Youtube video, and also been given advice on Trip Advisor about the best Class to travel. 3rd Class is best, reasons being the windows are open which is better for taking photos. 3rd Class have fans, and are fine for a relatively short journey, and they're fun because you get closer to the folk that you've travelled thousands of miles to mix with. The open area between carriages is also where smokers congregate.....no thanks.
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Jul 17th, 2017, 11:31 PM
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LL - I agree hard seats in a non aircon carriage with opening windows would be best for photos, however Vietnam Railways have been replacing old carriages with allegedly "new" ones ( read Chinese cast offs!) over the last couple of years and third class are only now available on certain trains on certain routes. There were none on ours in June.
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Jul 18th, 2017, 10:51 PM
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Crellston - Thanks, I'll stop referring to the open windowed 3rd Class carriages.
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Jul 18th, 2017, 10:57 PM
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Thanks again both for you advice and tips, really appreciate it.

I've been looking at homestays near Can Tho, and considering booking Nguyen Shack. We're not sure whether to stay for one or two nights, or maybe one night here and one night in a hotel in Can Tho. Any suggestions or other homestays we could look at perhaps - I can see the reviews are very good for Nguyen though.
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Jul 18th, 2017, 11:46 PM
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Green Village is another that seems to get good reviews. I recall that someone on this forum stayed at Nguyen Shack and wasn't too impressed (may have been CaliforniaLady?). I

I can't recall the name of place that we stayed at, or even if it had one. The main thing I remember is the handle bars coming off of the bike they gave me and me ending up on my back in a cactus hedge! The key thing is to ensure that they can get you to Cai Rang market in the early morning and check what other activities they can help with If they can.

If that checks out, I would be inclined to spend two nights there and forget about Can Tho city. It's not that it is an unpleasant place, it's just that there is not a whole lot there to see or do there. In the evenings, near the river there is a great food market
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Jul 19th, 2017, 11:39 AM
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Thank you crelllston, I'm going to look into Green Village and have dropped them an email. it sounds like they do a trip to the Cai Rang market. Thanks for the heads up on Can Tho, I think we'll probably just stick with either Green Village or Nguyen Shack in that case, this sounds a better option for us.
Ending up in a cactus hedge sounds painful!!
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Jul 19th, 2017, 10:44 PM
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<<>>

Ouch.....I think Admiral Black would have enjoyed that tale!
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Jul 20th, 2017, 07:31 AM
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It was painful sparklytink, embarassing too!

LL - I would never have heard the last of it!
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Jul 20th, 2017, 10:48 AM
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So, I've been in touch with Green Village and they are closed for the Lunar New Year until 21 Feb, we were hoping to stay from the 18th. This is making me wonder if the markets in Cai Rang will have anything happening if we stay elsewhere, and it seems a shame to miss these.
We could potentially move our itinerary around a bit, but this would mean tricky transport options - we would need to get from either Hoi An or Hue to Can Tho.
I'm feeling a bit stuck now! We either still go to Can Tho (possibly staying in Nguyen Shack if they're even open), or ditch this idea all together and go elsewhere for a couple of nights. Possibly Dalat?
Any bright ideas really welcome - I WILL get this holiday planned somehow! ��
Maybe you have suggestions I've not even considered ... feeling hopeful!
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Jul 20th, 2017, 05:25 PM
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I agree that there would be little point in visiting Can Tho if the market is not on (although I do feel that it would probably be unaffected). If Nguyen Shack come back to you with availability and it confirm that it is will be open then it should be fine.

One issue is likely to be transport to the delta. We have always gone by bus but around Tet, that could prove difficult and a taxi could well be the only option (NS could probably arrange that for you). If not, I dont think I would risk trying to buy tickets on arrival in Saigon.

Dalat is nice enough, but it would not be my choice for a first visit to Vietnam. It is also VERY popular with Vietnamese tourists and so is likely to be heaving around Tet.

One thought, would be to bring Hue and Hoi An to the beginning of your stay. i.e. fly direct to Da Nang on arrival, visit those to places first as, being more tourist orientated than the delta, they will be less affected by Tet - esp. Hoi An.

You could then leave the delta and Saigon until the end of your trip. Maybe 3 days in Saigon, a couple in the delta and then to the airport (depending on the time of your flight - if early then you will need to spend you last night in Saigon.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 11:06 PM
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If you do decide to visit Dalat, there are oly a handful of flights from Saigon each day, so like Crellston mentions, avoid TET as the flights will fill very fast, and everywhere will be very busy with locals.

We went to Dalat on our first visit after spending a couple of nights in Saigon. We flew there with Vietjet [no problems], who have their own separate section of the Departure Terminal. Nice newish aircraft, very smart and efficient cabin crew decked out in Tartan Thunderbird outfits.....very easy on the eye. We were in the air for 30 minutes, it's that quick.

Dalat Airport is tiny. There's a Shuttle Bus to Dalat that meets every flight, and a booking desk inside the terminal. Ticket was 40k dong, journey through some pretty scenery, first following a green valley, and then climbing up, over, and down into Dalat, takes about 50 minutes. We had a 10 minute walk to the hotel from where we got dropped off by the central market. The hotel organised our tickets for the shuttle back to the airport, and we were picked up outside the hotel.

We stayed at Dreams Hotel.....

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_..._Province.html

.....which was excellent, included buffet breakfast was superb, and very good vfm.

We went by vintage train to visit the Linh Phoc Pagoda...

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attrac..._Province.html

The wacky Crazy House.....

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attrac..._Province.html

The Dalat Cable Car....

http://www.dalattours.net/Tourist-At...Cable-Car.html

There's lots of other thing to do.

From Dalat we got a Vietnam Air flight to Da Nang.
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